Pocket of Asia Yields 208 New Species—in 1 Year

Mekong region's amazing biodiversity under threat, WWF warns

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 14, 2011 6:18 AM CST

(Newser) – It's a region that produces a new species every other day: Carnivorous plants that can eat mice, birds, and lizards. An all-female species of lizard that reproduces by self-cloning. Brightly colored geckos bathed in orange, yellow, blue, and green markings. A noseless monkey that looks like it's wearing an Elvis wig. These are just a few of the 208 new species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, reports the World Wildlife Fund.

Stretching from Yunnan province in southern China to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and Thailand, the Greater Mekong region is full of biodiversity, but is under increasing pressure from development, the WWF warns. The recent extinction of Vietnam's rhinoceros population has spurred concern for rare wildlife in the area. "This is a region of extraordinary richness in terms of biodiversity, but also one that is extremely fragile,” a WWF official tells Time. “It’s losing biodiversity at a tragic rate."

The WWF announced the discovery of five species of carnivorous pitcher plants, Nepenthes, around the Greater Mekong region.   (Marcello Catalano)
The Mekong river, flowing through Cambodia. Researchers say 208 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year.   (? Gordon Congdon)
Khone Falls in Laos. The Greater Mekong region is home to vast biodiversity, with 208 new species discovered there just last year.   (? WWF-Cambodia)
The Psychedelic Gecko, found in Vietnam, boasts uniquely bright and psychedelic colorings.   (? L. Lee Grismer)
The Leiolepis ngovantrii is an all-female species that reproduces by cloning itself.   (L. Lee Grismer)
Logging and development in Laos, as around much of the Greater Mekong, is threatening the region's biodiversity.   (? Claude Barutel)
This new species of newt was spotted in Laos last year.   (WWF)
This species of monkey with an "Elvis" hairdo was found in Burma last year, and is so rare that no photographs of live ones are known to exist.   (AP Photo/Fauna & Flora International, Martin Aveling)
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